What is nephrology?
Nephrology is a sub-specialty of medicine that focuses on the kidney. It is derived from the Greek words: ‘nephros’ (kidney) and ‘ology’ (study of).
A nephrologist concerns himself with:
- The study of normal kidney function and kidney disease
- The preservation of kidney health and function
- The treatment of kidney diseases and kidney failure
The treatment of kidney diseases may include:
- Diet and fluid management
- Medication (ranging from anti-hypertensive therapy to immune suppression)
- Renal replacement therapy (hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis – acute and chronic)
- Kidney transplantation
Systemic conditions that affect the kidneys (such as diabetes, autoimmune disease and infectious disease) and systemic problems that occur as a result of kidney problems (such as renal bone disease and hypertension) are also studied and managed by a nephrologist.
A nephrologist is a specialist physician who has undertaken further training to become an expert in the field of kidney physiology and disease.
For most, the kidney and its function is vague concept until they are diagnosed with a primary kidney disease (e.g. Glomerulonephritis) or suffers renal dysfunction due to a systemic disease like diabetes, hypertension or systemic lupus erythromatosis. The nephrologist diagnoses and treats these conditions and guides you through every step of the treatment process.
Kidney disease is usually progressive and can have a devastating effect on a person’s quality of life as well as their overall life expectancy.
If diagnosed early and managed appropriately many of these diseases are very treatable or at the very least a person’s kidney function can be maintained for extended periods of time.
This early management of disease translates into enormous improvement in a person’s quality of life and life expectancy.
When should I consult a nephrologist?
A nephrologist will care for anyone who has a kidney or a kidney-associated disease.
These diseases will mainly manifest with:
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Protein in the urine (proteinuria)
- Electrolyte disturbances (e.g. high or low sodium, potassium and others)
- Kidney dysfunction or kidney failure
- Difficult to treat hypertension
- Abnormal kidney sonar or CT-scan
Kidney disease does not discriminate between people and affects young and old, male and female. Certain diseases are more common within certain population groups, the nephrologist will look at specific risk factors and disease characteristics to assist in making the correct renal diagnosis.